HIALEAH — A 2005 county law, which restricted where sex offenders could live, has driven many to a campsite outside of Hialeah, and that campsite is a security and sanitation nightmare, according to officials.
The residents of the encampment have been convicted of everything from sexting with minors to rape. The law has barred many from living in residential neighborhoods, public housing or homeless shelters.
So now, dozens of sex offenders live in tents or cars without access to bathrooms or running water.
Business owners have complained that the presence of the sex offenders has kept customers away for fear of bringing their children or parking their cars in the area.
“Before, we got more than 200 customers every week,” Mario Medina, manager of La Cascada told a reporter. “Now it’s 90 at best.”
The 2005 law was passed after a drifter raped and murdered a 9-year-old in Homosassa.
The mayor of Miami Beach at the time, David Dermer, proposed an ordinance that would restrict sex offenders 2,500 feet from the area. Miami-Dade followed suit by extending the county’s restriction to 2,500 feet as well.
At a loss to find housing, many retreated to the warehouse district in North Miami-Dade, which stretches from Hialeah to Liberty City. The area has no active sewer line or public bathrooms. Residents receive meals from a Key Biscayne church on Tuesdays.
Brett Borges, 49, lives in a ripped tent on the site.
“Every time it rains, we get flies and mosquitoes,” he says. “It’s ripe for disease… Animals live better than this.”
In 2014, Borges was sentenced to 21 months in prison for soliciting nude photos and sex from an undercover officer posing as a 15-year-old boy on Grindr, a gay hook-up app.
“This was my first offense. I’ve never even gotten a parking ticket,” he says.
“We’re a family,” Borges says. “We look out for each other because no one else does.”
Yusein Musa, 42, owns Florida Cold Services.
“We’re law-abiding businesspeople who pay taxes, but now we’re watching our backs constantly,” he says.
After filing several complaints with the Miami-Dade Police Department, he received a response from Det. Robin Pinkard, a department representative.
“We do not keep track of the living conditions of transient sexual offenders,” she answered in an email.
In 2014, County Commissioner Xavier Suarez told the New Miami Times: “That we restrict where [offenders] can live and not provide any facilities for them isn’t human or logical.”
According to Ronald Book, the head of Miami-Dade’s homeless board, 270 people live in the encampment.
On Monday, police and social workers visited the site, yet no solution has been offered for the community or the homeless sex offenders.